U.S. Supreme Court Reverses Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals And Holds Lower Court's Certification Of Class Of Approximately 1.6 Million Women Employees In Alleged Discrimination Case Was Error

As we previously reported here, on April 26, 2010, in Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., a divided Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided 6-5 en banc to affirm the decision of the trial court to grant class certification in a discrimination lawsuit alleging Wal-Mart Stores discriminates against its women employees. The nationwide class is reputed by the Los Angeles Daily Journal to number upward of 1.6 million women employees, which would make the class the largest class in United States history.

In 2001, the Impact Fund, a Berkley, California based organization many plaintiff's attorneys donate money to, filed on behalf of Betty Dukes and other current or former employees of Wal-Mart a lawsuit alleging Wal-Mart discriminates against its women employees regarding promotions and pay practices in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The trial court later certified a class consisting of "all women employed by Wal-Mart at any time after December 26, 1998."

On Appeal, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's grant of class certification but remanded to the trial court for further consideration the issue of whether to certify for class treatment the plaintiffs' claims for punitive damages and the issue of whether to certify an additional class or classes consisting of women who were no longer employed by Wal-Mart when the lawsuit was filed.

As we previously reported here, on December 23, 2010, only 17 days after it granted Wal-Mart's petition for review on December 6, 2010, the Supreme Court set the case for oral argument on March 29, 2011.

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States reversed the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and held, among other things, the trial court decision to certify a class was error because common issues of law and fact do not predominate. Click here to download and read a copy of the decision, which we are analyzing and will comment about further soon. In the meantime, suffice it to say today's decision is a  terrific decision for employers nationwide.

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